Jun 23, 2024  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 

Doctor of Philosophy in Geology

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Any student who has earned a baccalaureate or master’s degree in geology or environmental geosciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, geography, mathematics, physics, or soil science from an accredited college or university is eligible to apply for admission. Every candidate for the Ph.D. must complete the requirements specified below.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at http://www.niu.edu/assessment/clearinghouse/outcomes/index.shtml.

Course Requirements

Ph.D. students must normally complete a minimum of 90 semester hours as part of the degree program. In computing this total, a maximum of 30 semester hours may be included from the M.S. or equivalent program, provided they are consistent with the student’s Ph.D. program objectives. At least 24 semester hours must be taken in approved courses in the student’s field of study. A maximum of 39 semester hours may be counted for Ph.D. dissertation research and writing (GEOL 799). The remaining hours must be selected from electives and an internship program, with the consent of the adviser.

With the approval of the department and the office of the dean of the Graduate School, a maximum combined total of 15 semester hours of graduate courses beyond the master’s degree taken as a student-at-large at NIU, plus credit earned in NIU courses taught outside of the U.S., plus graduate credit for courses accepted in transfer from other accredited institutions, may be counted toward meeting doctoral degree requirements.

The complete doctoral program is arranged as follows.

1. Field of study          24-30 semester hours 

2. Electives 21-30 semester hours
3. Internship 0-9 semester hours
4. Dissertation (GEOL 799) 30-39 semester hours
90 semester hours minimum 

The student should expect to take a significant portion of the elective course work in allied science departments, particularly chemistry, mathematics, and physics, as is appropriate to round out the doctoral program. Entering students with particularly sound preparation in geology and environmental geosciences may, with approval, substitute graduate courses in other departments for required geology and environmental geosciences courses. Conversely, non-majors entering the doctoral program will need to strengthen their background in fundamental geological principles.

The student entering the Ph.D. program with a B.S. or B.A. degree who does not elect to undertake a master’s thesis must take the non-thesis option M.S. examination in the semester in which he or she will have completed 30 semester hours of graduate study. The student must complete this examination satisfactorily in order to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Candidacy Examination

No later than the semester in which 30 semester hours of graduate study beyond the M.S. (or beyond satisfactory performance on the non-thesis M.S. examination–see above) are completed, but at least 8 months before the dissertation defense, the student must successfully complete a candidacy examination consisting of both written and oral portions. Details concerning this examination may be obtained from the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences.

Language Requirement

There is no general foreign language/research tool requirement for the Ph.D. degree in geology. Each doctoral student’s adviser will identify any language/tool competencies to be required for that student and will decide when satisfactory competence has been achieved.


Before or during tenure in the Ph.D. program, the student must intern for a minimum period of one semester with industry, a public or private research organization, or a government agency. The internship position and arrangements must be approved by the department. The internship must be in a geoscience setting or organization and appropriate to the candidate’s program. This requirement may be waived in special cases where a degree candidate has previous practical experience in the subject matter.


The student must complete an approved research project and prepare a dissertation. It must be a substantial contribution to knowledge, in which the student exhibits original scholarship and the ability to conduct independent research. An oral defense of the student’s work and dissertation is required; this will be held before the university community and under the supervision of the student’s doctoral committee, in accordance with Graduate School regulations.

Each doctoral candidate is required to make an oral presentation of research progress once each academic year to his or her dissertation director and to a dissertation progress committee chosen by the student and the dissertation director. The committee will evaluate the presentation and will inform the student in writing of its assessment of the progress of the research.

Each doctoral candidate is required to make at least one public presentation of his or her research results through a departmental colloquium.

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